Watchdog Report: Brownfields, Toxic Toys and E-waste

An end-of-year victory

Brownfields: every community has them, and there are tens of thousands statewide. You know them as the dilapidated gas stations, abandoned factories, and out-of-business dry cleaning shops that lower property values, hurt community morale and are riddled with toxic chemicals making them too dangerous for use. The state program to clean these sites is an albatross for taxpayers (costing us over $1.1 billion to clean up just 131 sites).

In 2014, the Legislature ignored calls for reform and passed a simple extension to the current, broken program. But following the fracking ban, Governor Cuomo closed out the year with more good news by VETOing this short-sighted plan. He has committed to proposing much-needed reforms in his executive budget which we expect will ensure the program is targeted to the communities in need, and use taxpayer funds more effectively to clean up more sites.

E-waste law takes effect

Computers, TVs, printers, phones and more are often made with heavy metals and toxic chemicals that harm our environment and public health (particularly when incinerated or dumped in landfills). In 2010, Environmental Advocates was part of a coalition that passed the state’s e-waste recycling law, and as of January 1, that law is now in effect. There are a variety of easy ways to dispose of e-waste: 1) the retailer from which you purchased the product may accept it for recycling 2) local municipalities often schedule e-waste recycling days 3) the E-Waste Alliance Network allows you to search, by county, recycling facilities 4) and the DEC maintains a list of waste recyclers.

Leading on kids’ health

In 2015, children’s products like toys, clothing and bedding can be made with notoriously toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead. And most parents would never suspect that these items aren’t tested for safety before going on store shelves. Crazy, right? In short, the state and federal government have failed in epic fashion. Recognizing that families shouldn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in toys, Albany County just enacted a law to ban the sale of dangerous products - an effort championed by Environmental Advocates and our great partners (see the compelling testimony from our Saima Anjam here). The new law is as common-sense as they come. What a great start to a new year!

Looking to 2015

We closed 2014 with a ban on fracking and a commitment from the Governor to make brownfields reform a priority in his next budget. And our team has been joined by incredible new staff: Kristin Legere (membership director), Max Oppen (media specialist) and Joe Stelling (fiscal policy associate). But there is a lot of work ahead as the state Legislature returns to session, and we grapple with what may turn out to be the most anti-environmental Congress in history; complete with anardent climate-denier now helming the Senate’s environmental committee. We’ve shown what we can do when our members act – THANK YOU! We can’t wait to work with you to accomplish even more in 2015!